Ezra Miller discusses Another Happy Day, performing alongside Ellen Barkin, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and much more.
If you haven't heard of Ezra Miller yet, that will surely change by the end of the year. The actor stars as Elliot, the son of Ellen Barkin's character Lynn in Another Happy Day, which hits theaters November 18. Ezra Miller also stars as the title character in We Need to Talk About Kevin, debuting in theaters December 9, along with the upcoming adaptation The Perks of Being a Wallflower, which debuts in theaters next year. I recently had the chance to speak with Ezra Miller over the phone about Another Happy Day, which centers on a wedding that could be a powder keg of emotions for a highly volatile family. Here's what the young actor had to say.
Can you talk a bit about your initial reactions to the script, and what you took away from it?
Ezra Miller: Yeah. I was blown away by how many characters were fully understood within the context of a two-hour movie. Usually, you see that sort of subtlety and nuance in the understanding of a whole plethora of characters, as both antagonists and protagonists, as being human beings who are, at times, easy to identify with and, at times, impossible to understand. Usually you only see that in an extended television series, where they have time to explore each character over the course of an hour, or you see it in a really long theater production. The script, at first, it was almost like there was no narrative. There was no plot, but you found yourself in this really undefined cohesive order, falling into sympathetic grasps of each character. When I read the script, I just thought that was incredibly refreshing, because, usually within a movie, you only come to understand or identify with, one or two or three characters. Then the rest just tend to just fall into their archetypes and remain there. (Writer-director) Sam (Levinson) has this understanding of people, where the complexity of the ways and dimensions of a human being, that any character will have so many different sides, and masks, and appearances. When I first read the script, there was just something amazingly refreshing about that.
Yeah, it almost doesn't feel like a narrative feature. It feels like this actual glimpse inside a family. That's how real it felt, to me. It was really wonderful to watch.
Ezra Miller: The official narrative within the dysfunctional family, to this point, has been done. It's been so explored and over-explored. It will never be fully explored, but yeah, I feel like Sam knew his own voice as sort of an alternative storyteller. That's incredibly impressive that he was able to write the script and know, even within the way the camera moves, that you feel this omnipotent voice to Sam's storytelling. It moves you, I feel, compellingly through a story which, essentially, has no direct plot line.
Ellen Barkin also produced this, so she must have been on board when you were approached for this. Who else was attached when you came on? There is quite an amazing cast here, so were those people who were attached part of the draw for this role also?
Ezra Miller: It was very, very exciting to see in action. Ellen had been involved for years before I got involved and, around the time that I got involved, everyone else was kind of falling into place. I think Kate (Bosworth) had just been cast, and Ellen Burstyn had just come on board. A week later, George Kennedy and Eamon O'Rourke, who played Brandon, came on board, and everything just sort of fell into place, right around the time I jumped on. But yeah, Ellen had been involved since the beginning, and Demi (Moore) was also involved very early on.
What kinds of things did you take away from being around this much talent?
Ezra Miller: It was hilarious, man. It was like being in one of those cheesy Hollywood murals, with Elvis Presley and James Dean smoking a cigar. It was fucking amazing. I'm still not sure how I snuck my way into such a situation. It was like school, you know, college for a dropout actor (Laughs). It's that sort of environment, especially when you have a director who, in the act of production, is still actively learning, it makes it this beautiful open learning experience for everyone. It's actually the best way to make art, because in the given moments when artistic production is really happening, when creation is happening, there's always something new to find. If you can approach it with that sort of receptivity, I certainly found that having a bunch of amazing old-school and new-school actors, all rallying behind the vision of this first-time director who was determined to learn everything, yeah, it became like one big school. Sometimes those school projects are the coolest pieces of art you ever make.
Ezra Miller: I think within him being a first-time director was something that will follow his style throughout his entire career, which is that every day, he was keenly aware of, in the moment, what was really interesting. Even in this world he created, this world that stemmed from his vision, he knew what was really the point of drama or the pinnacle of comedy, of that particular moment. Even though we were moving through a very tight shooting schedule, and working to form his vision within the story, he kept all of this room, this space, to be spontaneous, in what he was choosing to capture. We had these amazing experiences of being able to roll a full canister of film out on improvisation that came out of nowhere, except for what was already happening in the air of the true realizations of the characters and the family that day. I think being able to maintain a vision, while also being that wide open to what is truly popping in any given moment, that's a style in and of itself. That made him very, very cool to work with.
I was just blown away Ellen in this. I have to watch it again, actually, just to take it all in. What was it like being in those scenes with her?
Ezra Miller: It was very intense, you know. It was a great challenge to match her nature of vulnerability, the internal justification for her anger. Essentially, there were some parts of it that were vastly complicated to approach. She had a lot of wisdom, regarding how to breathe thos complexities into life. Sometimes it would be as simple as us listening to the same Cat Stevens song before we stuck up a crazy fight scene. I think a lot of her genius is in this willingness to do whatever it takes to access a performance. She's got this stern determination and this constant rekindling of the commitment to sacrifice for the piece of art. As Sam was responsive to the day-to-day spontaneous truths, she, as well as a lot of the other actors on this, were really determined to create them.
I was wondering if you could talk a bit about The Perks of Being a Wallflower. That's another one with a phenomenal cast, so could you talk a bit about who you play in that, and your experiences shooting it?
Ezra Miller: Yeah. I play Patrick, who is a young man in the throes of yet another adolescent tribulation. He's sort of a character who's full of pride, and determined to live haphazardly, or, in other simpler words, to live. In that simple task, he's meeting incredible resistance. There are all these challenges to his pride as a person. It's such a beautiful movie, because it expands out to encompass, again, many different characters. In understanding them, we find these little whispers of a blueprint for how to juggle the fucking nightmare of adolescence (Laughs). All of these amazing actors were put in the same strange hotel in Pittsburgh, and we all had these specific missions that came to one big mission, to hopefully expose a little bit of that reality, through the lens of this one group of kids in Pittsburgh, in the 90s. It's a random lens, but it's one that is much loved by the readership of that book. Hopefully, we found even more in those characters, and just those little, true stories of how difficult it is to navigate the highs and lows of adolescence, when the highs and lows are more extreme than ever, and yet, at the same time, you have the least amount of experience and wherewithal to deal with them. It was so amazing, to be plunged into that exploration with all the talented young actors of this time. There were just so many amazing kids who I got to realize that vision with. It was very cool, man.
Finally, what would you like to say to anyone who's curious about Another Happy Day, about why they should check it out in theaters on November 18?
Ezra Miller: Well, it's impossible to not identify with this. I don't know where else you're going to be able to endeavor so deeply into dark, dramatic content, with such beautiful, comedic, levity. I think something amazing has been accomplished, in how heavy, and also how funny, this movie turned out to be.
Awesome. Well, that's my time. Thanks so much for talking to me, Ezra. It was a real pleasure, and I really enjoyed the film.
Ezra Miller: Great. Thank you, sir.